Posts Tagged ‘time travel’

In this series, the animation is pastel, non-photorealistic, and bright; the tone is sarcastic, cynical, and loaded with irony; the main character is a lowly UN mediator assigned as the interface point between humans and fairies. She works for her grandfather, and in many episodes, has an assistant to accompany her. (I don’t think she is ever named, oddly enough.)

Civilization is in ruins and people have returned to more of a medieval style of living — hunting and gathering. Electricity is rare, although cars are still around, and so is the dysfunctional UN. In short, “It’s the End of the World as I Know it, and I Feel Fine.” This is the world of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita — Mankind is in Decline.

Assistant and Mediator

First, the music. The intro theme song is a fantastic slab of alt-J-rock — catchy, emotive, upbeat, and sadly, not translated by any of the fansub groups. Check it out here. The ending theme song is a slower, atmospheric, ambient pop kind of deal that actually better captures the whole spirit of the show. The music throughout the show is atmospheric, often quite good, but not outstanding.


Second, the consistency. This series has a nearly-perfect setup combined with palliating graphics that put you at ease just so the knife can slip in. As you might expect, the writers don’t make the most of it. In fact, the episode quality is all over the place. For instance, episodes 1 and 2 are awesome; 3 is very lame; 4 is good, but 5 and 6 are a bit tired; you get the idea. It’s almost like the anime` picked random episodes from a manga, and the mangkata was trying to find his/her feet for 12 issues. The episodes connect to one another rarely, and there’s no character development to speak of. However, the main character’s past is explored and more of the world is revealed. It almost works, given the whole stilled time feel of the show.

So why do I enjoy this series? Simply because the episodes that are good are fantastic, there’s plenty of weirdness, the kawaii animation, the sarcastic dialog, and the refreshing themes. Episode 1 features potshots at the incompetent UN. Episode 4 explores the insane nature of much manga. Episodes 7-8 feature a time loop. Even the off episodes still have moments of hilarity and sarcastic insight; episode 5 features Pion, the kawaii robot girl, for instance.


Your Majesty, the Queen (note the Pocky plants!)

Jinru wa Suitai Shimashita is unique. It’s a breath of fresh air in a time where anime` tends towards the ho-hum and predictable. While another season would have been welcomed, even one season could have sufficed if the quality was consistent. As it stands, I can give this a guarded recommendation, but not a rousing or unreserved one. The episodes to catch are 1, 2, 4, 7, and 9. The others are at your own risk.

The following fansub groups did the best job:
Asenshi (Blue-ray specials)

Read Full Post »

In three days, I watched all 26 episodes of RahXephone.

I was just recovering from being sick, and I had the free time (and admittedly, a low drive to do anything else), and I’m a real sucker for narrative once it gets going. Narrative makes me feel like I’m on a steam train with no way to stop or get off until the end of the line is reached. Now that I’m at the end of the line, I’m looking around in a dusty, mostly-empty town, with no money in my pockets, wondering, “Is this it?”

I’m not familiar with the source material, but this anime` has the quintessential adaption problem of “What to exclude?” 26 episodes showed that it included far too much material — that is obvious, yet, only one episode was truly filler. Not only that, but it included the wrong type of material to make the series work; boring metaphysical explorations made the cut, but revealing character motives and thoughts didn’t. As a result of the characters’ unjustified actions/motives, the series lost a lot of resonance. It felt assembled by force, hollow, and sadly superficial.

No simple summary is possible here, but the story revolved around Ayato — who he is, and what he becomes. For the genre, it’s humane mecha/SF, which means that most of the time, the emphasis is on the characters and not the battles. The battles rarely feel forced, and even those show the psychological side of the fight. This is neither your typical shonen battle royale, nor an emotionless Macross. There’s a fair amount of dystopia and genetics involved as well as heavy doses of romance and quite honestly, a bit too much sexual spice for my tastes. The latter element is rarely blatant, but more risque, and never important to the plot.

Early on, the dystopia feel is more prominent, and the music supports this excellently — an atmospheric, timeless minimalist jazz or passionate strings or solo piano pieces. Unfortunately, the music and the tone aren’t always in synch and its quality decreases by the later episodes. The writing is usually strong with a few episodes not quite as good as others. The animation is strong throughout. Bones is the animation house, and the style is a level of detail a few notches below their masterwork in Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but still enjoyable.

A better choice of source material would have explored the characters’ thoughts, which would have allowed us to really understand them. For instance, why is Makoto Isshiki such a jerk? Yes, he had a horrible childhood. That’s it? Why not show how he thinks, and how he justifies mistreating other people?

And why does Itsuki Kisaragi NEVER acknowledge the affections of Sayoko Nanamori? Sayoko is red-headed, intelligent (she’s a research assistant), and foxy as all get out! The guy completely ignores her and as a result, she ends up sleeping with Isshiki. I don’t get it. He works with a girl that had the hots for him day after day after day, and he never once asks her out? What prevents him? The series never really says.

The Foundation deserved more time and attention, too. As it is, I’d have to watch the series three times to get a better grasp on that aspect. That I don’t want to shows the fundamental flaw with Rah-Xepohone: it is not deeply resonant.

The sense of stolen time intimated so strongly by the music and the early episodes simply vanishes about episode 20, for no real reason, and that dystopic feel gets lost in an overcomplicated plot. The latter is typical with Japanese works, actually, and it is even satirized by Jinrui wa Suitar Shimashita. The meaningless Shintoistic indulgence doesn’t help, and the vague Christian implications don’t save it. All of this confusion and attention given in the wrong places makes the ending especially hard to swallow.

The two main characters, Ayota and Haraku, do end up happy. However, the happiness that they have is boringly ordinary (bordinary), that is made even more routine by the explanation of Ayota’s painting. This ending is completely unjustified by the previous 25 episodes; the Harry Potter movies resulted in a similar unconvincing ending. Was everything that occurred merely symbolic of the struggles of a relationship? All of the battles, maturation, injuries, anger, and self-sacrifice led merely to this? It doesn’t seem worth it.

RahXephone is at times, interesting, but the journey is not worth the effort. It is, in a word, unjustified.

Read Full Post »

Millennium Actress is a recounting of the life of the actress Chiyoko, whose acting years spanned from pre-World War II Japan to the late 1970’s, and whose films established the Ginei movie studio. It is a tragic and heartbreaking story, that takes a while to get started before it becomes great, and then it becomes transcendent.


It begins with wistful blending of the past and the present, and is told largely as an interview with the actress, as she recounts her movies, and her life; the two blur into this semi-real, semi-fantasy state. At times it’s confusing due to the way that the interviewer (a director) and his cameraman sidekick are interacting with her past self, the interviewer’s past self, and whether they are reciting lines from a movie or speaking as themselves. This does capture Chiyoko’s mental state, though, and keeps the movie interesting, so my hat is off to the director and the writer for this ingenious device.

The language is largely clean and only a handful of profanities crop up; no gore; no sexual trash. Chiyoko is a wholly sympathetic character, and the director is as well. The score is supportive and doesn’t suck. In fact the main theme is memorable and fits the movie perfectly. The ending song is also good. The animation style is detailed enough without needing to be photorealistic, and you can tell that it was done with care. It’s not everywhere detailed, but detailed where it counts. It’s comparable to a mid-period Ghibli release, I’d say. The animation house is Madhouse. Kudos!

The story becomes quicker paced in the last fourth as various threads are sewn together; if you can make it this far, it is worth the wait. This brings the emotions home and you are struck by the sorrowful weight of it all. Subsequent viewings allow you to appreciate its depth more than a single viewing does.

The conclusion I’m not sure I agree with, and I’m not sure that even Chiyoko herself really believes it — how could you chase a guy for over half a century and then state what she does? But the ending otherwise is beautiful, and comes close to brushing the face of God without saying as much.

I don’t know if this movie parallels Japanese history, if it is loosely based on it, or if it is completely fictitious. In any case, it’s definitely worth watching if you have an hour and half to spare. I guess this has been licensed because a few days after I downloaded it from Tokyo Toshokan, it completely disappeared. If you can find it, it’s worth watching. It’s probably even worth buying.

Read Full Post »

What happens when you have a cool, head-trippy idea, but haven’t worked out the plot past the first two episodes? If you’re the people behind Stein’s Gate (or should I say “Stein’s; Gate” — what is up with that mangled punctuation?) you just go for it anyways. Most people watching won’t even notice that the last seven episodes are filler, especially if you throw in pervy jokes to cover up the lack of plot! You’re as good as rolling in the dough at that point.

Episode one was fascinating, freaky, odd and darkly humorous. The second episode was about 90% of the quality of episode 1, the third, 70%, and by the fourth episode I didn’t care if the series continued or not. Some anime`s fail catastrophically (like Dog Days, Miracle Girls, and Hana-Saku Iroha); others just suck from the start; but Stein’s Gate is a slow-motion fail.

In the end, the boredom caused by watering down the plot, the perviness, and the glacial pace just proved too much for me to handle. I should have known that any series dealing with time travel was destined to fail, anyhow! Like Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, Stein’s Gate failed as a series. If it had been a movie, it wouldn’t have reached the level of The Girl That Leapt Through Time, but it would have been fairly decent, I imagine.

Welcome to the graveyard, Stein’s Gate!

Read Full Post »

I won’t break down Air on an episode by episode basis, because that means I’d have to go back and watch each episode again, and this series is just so L O N G and so S L O W that it’d be like having a root canal on the installment plan.

It starts off like a sentimental summery romance/harem kind of thing, and then ventures into predictably confusing Shinto/magic stuff, but when they take two episodes off to warp back in time a thousand years, and then the main male character becomes a crow, all bets are off. Does the story end with weird Japanese metaphysics that explain…well…nothing at all? You bet! Does the main female character die at the end? Of course! And is everything left hanging? What, did you think it would resolve? You haven’t watched much anime` then!

Honestly, this series had enough of an interesting plot for really six episodes at the most. They had to break out the crazy junk because their plot, pacing, and characterization bit the big one. There’s a few profanities per episode, and occasional perv moments (quite a bit more in the last two episodes), but it’s the stupid Shinto themes that prove the most annoying.

Only watch this if you have nothing at else to do with your life. Welcome to the graveyard, Air.

Read Full Post »